Saturday, 14 July 2012

Poet's Cottage - Josephine Pennicott

With a striking cover, interesting premise and a semi-local author (Australian) it was hard to pass this one up.

Sadie and her daughter Betty have moved to Tasmania to start anew after divorce and personal issues have made life impossible for them in Sydney. Poet's cottage is a beautiful house with a lot of history. Sadie's grandmother Pearl who was a children's author in the 1930s scandalised the locals with her free spirit and eccentric ways. She was beautiful and glamorous but she was also brutally murdered in the basement. With the murder unsolved for over 50 years Sadie wishes to write and publish a book. But  her mother Marguerite is dead and Thomasina her Aunt tells a very different and darker story of her grandmother.

Soon Sadie and Betty begin to experience strange and frightening things. Is it Pearl? or someone who doesn't want the truth known?

This book was deliciously dark and atmospheric. There were more than a few scenes that were frightening. Bit by bit Pearl is revealed. She is such a complex character, neither bad nor good. I loved every moment of this story. I had my suspicions on who the murderer could be but I was completely wrong! I love being surprised.

The writing was wonderful. A almost perfect book. I cannot wait to see what Josephine writes next!

4.5 stars

Dancing at the chance - DeAnna Cameron

I was looking for something light and enjoyable and I certainly found it in 'Dancing at the chance.' Something about this book drew me to it. I tend to favour more serious historical novels but sometimes I love a bit of fluff.

Dancing at the chance follows a young woman named Pepper who dances at the once grand Chance theater. She is one dancer among many who longs for her big break. When her past lover, who also happens to have inherited the theater returns she hopes to get a more prominent role as a dancer and also get the man of her dreams. However he might not be the man she thought he was and when the theater's existence is threatened she risks losing everything.

This was a sweet novel. Pepper is naive in many ways but she has a fire in her that endeared me towards her. It is a quick enjoyable read, however it was missing  the substance that I usually find in books that I love. I recommend this for anyone looking for a light old fashioned kind of historical romance.

Rating: 3.5

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Gods of Gotham - Lyndsay Faye

Isn't that cover beautiful? It's even better in person. The Gods of Gotham is not a book that I would usually read but I had heard some really good things about this so I just knew that I had to give it a shot.

Timothy Wilde is working at a bar when a great fire breaks out. He had been saving up money to marry the girl of his dreams so he rushes to save his savings before the fire gets to it. Unfortunately he is disfigured in an explosion and all seems lost. How could she ever love him now? His wayward older brother Valentine turns up and employs him as a copper star. The police force is new and not taken seriously by the general public which makes their job all the more difficult.

New York is flooded with Irish who are escaping the potato famine back home. This causes much strife among the natives. When Irish children whores are found buried it is up to Timothy to discover who is behind it.

Faye's writing was a pleasure to read. At times it could be over written but that impression passed as the story line and its characters took hold. I loved the relationship that Timothy had with his older brother Valentine. It was so realistic and engaging.

The characters themselves were so unique and it was almost if they truly existed. I absolutely loved Valentine. He was such a complex character. I absolutely leaped when he appeared on the page.

The story was by no means predictable. I had a couple ideas who the killer could be but I was not able to predict the circumstances under which these crimes took place.

I am so excited that this is a going to be a series! The second book cannot come soon enough.

Rating: 4.5

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Solitary House - Lynn Shepherd

The solitary house was a book that I have had my eye on for a while. It is also released under the title 'Tom-all-alone's' in the UK. I had originally checked out the UK title from the library and had had to return it before I had the chance to read it but when I saw that the US version was available I was very happy to read this version purely for aesthetic purposes.This was the sequel/companion novel to A murder at Mansfield park, which I have not read but will definitively be checking out sometime soon.

Charles Maddox is a young detective who has been called to investigate the discovery of a small body buried in a cemetery. The discovery of other newborns at the same site begins what is sometimes a harrowing and difficult investigation. At the same time he is approached by Tulkinghorn, a wealthy lawyer who is privy to the darkest secrets of the rich and powerful. He hires Charles to investigate the origin of some threatening letters that one of his clients is receiving. The investigation is dangerous and Charles is not willing to let it go when he discovers that something sinister may be happening beneath the surface. What follows is a great mystery that exposes the darker side of London.

This book was not at all what I was expecting at all, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I haven't read Bleak House but had seen the BBC adaptation so there were a number of aspects/characters/story lines that I recognised. The writing was good and the story line was far from predictable. I liked that I didn't know what was going to happen half the time. A great mystery. The ending was superb and ends in such a way that I think that her next book A treacherous Likeness will continue the Charles Maddox story.

Rating: 4

The Open World - Stephanie Johnson

I am always excited to pick up a historical novel written by a fellow New Zealander and as soon as I saw this one on the shelf I knew that I had to read it. Not only does it have a beautiful cover but what seemed like a amazing premise.

In a nutshell this book is based on real historical figures and events. In fact the main character Elizabeth Smith is the authors Great-Great something grandmother. The novel opens in 1860's London. She lived in early colonial New Zealand  and still longs for the country she left behind. Elizabeth is a religious drug user and either due to this or supernatural forces she beings to see two young children from her past. Her dear friend the Reverend Cotton is mad and somewhat in love with Mary Ann a well to do wife of a Judge. Elizabeth was Mary Ann's companion and together they navigate this strange new country and its inhabitants.

Overall this book could be very confusing at times. It jumped time period and point of view multiple times without warning. I could be reading a chapter and get half way before  I realised what was happening. Nothing was wrong with the writing style, the problem way with the storyline and characterisation. It was bland and uninteresting. Nothing seemed to happen! I did not see the point in this book at all. The story started off well but I grew increasingly bored and frustrated when the story began to flounder. It was only by sheer willpower that I finished this in the hopes that it would improve. This book was a huge disappointment as I was so looking forward to reading this book and have loved so many other New Zealand historical novels.  If you are interested in this sort of thing I would recommend ' La Rochelle's Road by Tanya Moir' which was absolutely wonderful

Rating: 2.5

Monday, 28 May 2012

The lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan

I was very excited when I came across The lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. It sounded harrowing, exciting and wonderfully dark. However, I found this book only mildly entertaining and for the most part dull. How could this have happened? This book sounded like it was made for me. Well, it was due to a number of factors.

Most of the story is told on the lifeboat. It is 1914 and the ship has gone down. Grace, our narrator, is separated from her new husband and finds herself in the company of a diverse number of individuals. As the days slowly move by and their supplies dwindle the darker side of human nature starts to emerge in a number of ways. I found some of the sequences somewhat unbelievable but then again I have never been in that situation and cannot imagine what kind of madness would descend over one's mind.

I would not relate to Grace in any way and found her rather unlikeable. She could be strange and uncaring and I must say I disaproved of the way she 'caught' her husband.

The book was very slow for the most part and dry. I found myself skimming bits and praying for them to be rescued just so it would be over. Overall this book was okay, read it if you must but its not the kind of book you would move heaven and earth to get.

Rating: 2.5

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Blue Asylum - Kathy Hepinstall

Who knew that such a small book could pack such an emotional punch? Not a word is wasted in Kathy Hepinstall's new novel following a plantation wife named Iris Dunleavy and her imprisonment in an asylum on a small isolated island. As the American Civil War rages on without them, the islands occupants spend their days almost idyllically. 

But Iris is not insane. She is being punished for going against her husband's wishes. She is as much as a slave as those imprisoned on the plantation in her mind. But who will believe her? The British psychiatrist who sees her as a threat to everything he has built on this island? Or the handsome soldier who has violent outbursts and can only be calmed by the colour blue? Iris's arrival causes much upheaval but could she find love in this most unexpected of places?

The novel is told from the view points of many different characters. There is Iris herself who is not insane and is haunted by the guilt of the events that lead to her coming to the asylum. Ambrose the soldier who is traumatised by the events of the war but is drawn to Iris. There is also Dr. Cowell who truly believes that he is helping the inmates but is caught off guard by Iris who challenges him and bewitches him. His son Wendell was by far my favourite character, he is mourning the loss of Penelope, a former inmate who died. He is allowed to run around the island freely and befriends Iris. Each character was unique and effortlessly brought to life. 

Hepinstall's writing was to die for! I greedily raced through this novel. I will certainly be looking into her previous novels. 

Rating: 4.5